Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lower wages is the PROBLEM, not the solution in Wisconsin

It's quite obvious that the WisGOP Legislature and Governor Walker are going to try to screw over workers even more when they try to jam through right-to-work-for-less legislation some time early next year. That's the way this crew works- grab power for themselves and their contributors by any means possible, regardless of the results of such a move. And that's clearly what this is all about, because one look at the economic figures would tell you that states that have right-to-work-for-less laws generally end up worse off than states who don't, with lower wages for their workers. And low wages are Wisconsin's biggest economic PROBLEM, and doubling down on that trend isn't really the way to solve it.

Wages definitely are reduced in right-to-work-for-less states. Since the country is split with 24 states having these worker suppression laws and 26 not having them, we will have a relatively fair comparison to see how these states match up, so if you take a look at these figures from the databases of the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Wages and Employment, you'll see an unmistakable trend.

Average private Sector Wages, Q1, 2014
11 of the top 12 states do NOT have right-to-work-for-less
6 of the bottom 10 states do.

Private sector wage growth, Q1 2013- Q1 2014
6 of the top 10 states do NOT have right-to-work-for-less
5 of the bottom 8 states do.

Average weekly wage, manufacturing, Q1 2014
11 of the top 15 states do NOT have right-to-work-for-less
10 of the bottom 13 do.

The evidence is pretty obvious that states who have a right-to-work-for-less system in place are more likely to have lower wages, and that in itself is a good reason not to put it in place in Wisconsin. But there’s an even bigger reason why anyone who seriously wants to help Wisconsin’s economy should reject this out-of-hand. Because Wisconsin businesses are not having to spend too much money to hire workers and that’s what’s holding growth back. In fact, the the numbers strongly suggest WISCONSIN’S WAGES ARE TOO LOW AND NOT GOING UP ENOUGH.

Look at how Wisconsin measured up to its Midwest neighbors when it came to wages in the First Quarter of 2014.

Average weekly wage, private sector, Midwest Q1 2014
Ill. $1,117
Minn $1,057
Mich $948
Ohio $904
Wis. $856
Ind. $849
Iowa $817

Private Sector Weekly Wage Growth, Midwest Q1 2013- Q1 2014
Ill. +4.4%
Mich +3.6%
Ohio +3.2%
Iowa +3.0%
Wis. +2.9%
Ind. +1.8%

The same pattern holds in the more-unionized manufacturing sector.

Average weekly wage, manufacturing, Midwest Q1 2014
Ill. $1,366
Mich $1,294
Minn $1,213
Ind. $1,188
Ohio $1,137
Wis. $1,065
Iowa $1,032

Manufacturing Weekly Wage Growth, Midwest Q1 2013- Q1 2014
Ill. +4.1%
Minn +2.9%
Ohio +2.43%
Iowa +2.38%
Mich +2.0%
Wis. +1.2%
Ind. +0.8%

That last one is a real kicker, because Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana all have right-to-work-for-less provisions. And they’re the other 3 states pulling up the rear along with Wisconsin. So why do we need these extra provisions to “compete” at the bottom of this list?

Scott Wittkopf of the Forward Institute has a good theory why this is- simple greed. Wittkopf notes that this workers’ rights issue must be framed as one of economic justice, and that passing this bill would disgustingly tilt the playing field even more in favor of the rich and powerful than it already is.
Say these things in interviews, letters to the editor, to your friends and neighbors, to get it into public discourse –

Workers are profit creators!

This is a corporate greed and servitude bill!

This is a wage theft bill!

Consider how much more powerful this FRED graph is, in the context of the “workers are profit creators” frame of economics:

The above graph now demonstrates a morally intolerable situation, where the workers who are creating the huge spike in profits (red line), are denied a fair living wage portion of those profits as wages (blue line) because of greed. How can we tolerate legislation that would further encourage corporate servitude, greed, and wage theft!
100% correct. Our biggest economic problem is the “profit by any and all measures” mentality of corporate America that not only proves the theory of trickle-down economics to be a fraud (again), and has stagnated wages for almost all of the rest of us. Right-to-work-for-less hammers down on that throttle even more, by limiting the power of workers to get their fair share of the profits and revenues that they create. Having Wisconsin turn toward the example of low-wage Confederate states that have this form of wage theft in their bylaws isn’t a solution, it will make our problems worse.

I sit back and wonder what the spark will be that lights the seething fire below the vast majority of us who see an unequal society that favors the rich and connected, and wakes people into action and retribution for what has been stolen from them over the last 40+ years. Even a modicum of research will show the reasons for this inequality are obvious, and the “solutions” being offered by Republicans are failed, regressive policies that will only increase that desperation and anger. Instead, far too many members of those that have been hurt by these strategies decided to vote for those who would make it worse on November 4, 2014 in Wisconsin (in part because they were not told of these facts and were given enough of an alternative to this failure), and as a result, it seems a whole lot of us will pay a dear price for the sins that will follow at the Capitol.

1 comment:

  1. If often use the term "right to freeload" as well as "right to work for less".

    This comic illustrates the disconnect between the nomenclature used and the effect very well.